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Becoming a Professional Poker Player


have heard the saying "poker is a hard way to make an easy living" uttered dozens of times from my poker mentor and the truth is, it's an absolutely accurate statement. There is so much more to becoming a professional poker player than just making up your mind to do so. Some may suggest that simply reading books, dedicating yourself to the game, and logging thousands of hours of table time will put you on the path to becoming a professional. But to become an effective poker player you need to posses the skills, discipline, and bankroll necessary to actually make a living at the game.

More than just reading a book

All professionals have a solid understanding of game theory, statistics and mathematics that they have forged into their brain, regardless of whether it came from live or virtual play. Calculating pot and implied odds will ultimately help you determine if you should call, raise or fold. . There is a certain amount of natural ability and inclination that is required to play at the highest levels. It's not necessarily something that can be taught or learned by simply reading a book.

It’s all about the bankroll

I cannot stress enough the importance of A+ bankroll management; it's essential to playing as a professional. Playing poker for a living, particularly in cash games is much like running a business where bankroll management, game selection, and yes even networking come into play. You could be a fairly talented player that has shown a record of winning, but if you play above your bankroll limits,

or are alternatively loose and careless with your money, you are probably headed to the category of busted card player. Another common mistake I see players make concerning poor bankroll management is not exercising enough discipline when their session is running bad. Everyday is not your day and you have to accept this and leave the table to keep from losing your bankroll. Also if you are playing live cash games in

“It’s not necessarily something that

can be taught or learned by simply reading a book.”

a casino, a word of advice: stay out of the pit and away from table games like black jack. Spending your bankroll on other tables in the pit is not a good bankroll management decision. In terms of how big your bankroll should be is dependent on a number of factors. There is no hard and fast rule as to how much you should have set aside for poker. The size of your bankroll is hinged upon the stakes you are playing and your playing style. Some player's need a much larger bankroll because they play a fast and loose style where large swings are inerrant, and other's can operate out of a smaller bankroll by playing more conservatively.

Can you play full time?

How does one know when they can quit their day job and play poker full time? The key is deciding if you are a winning player or not. This is established by creating a poker log that tracks your play. The minimum components you should be tracking are: Article taken from accessed on 3/12/10.

date you played, net win/loss, and the number of hours you played. I tend to be very data oriented and keep track of where I play (Bellagio, Venetian, Foxwoods, etc.) and also the stakes. I constantly monitor this information and make correlations and patterns that enhance my wins.

Chance of winning in percent

How good are your pocket pairs? 180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Number of players in hand Site accessed on 3/12/10

High Pocket pairs are highly favored hands but are not guaranteed wins. The chances of winning are high preflop but could decrease afterwards. Improve chances of winning by betting big preflop and eliminating other opponents in hand. Professionals know when to bet or fold a high pair.

Tracking your play will help you conclude if you are a net winner, and if that win yields an acceptable hourly rate. If your hourly rate turns out being $8 on hour, the good news is you are a winning card player, but the bad news is

you are not good enough to play for a living, unless $8 an hour is sufficient for your lifestyle. Most professional cash game players believe that you should have a minimum of 1,000 hours tracked. That's equal to almost 6 months of full time play on an average of 40 hours per week. Anything equal to or greater than 1,000 hours will provide a decent snapshot and capture any variance you will undoubtedly experience as a player.

For most this is a pipe dream. And while there are many talented tournament players, these skills don’t translate well to cash game play; most, except for the top of the heap have to play to get buy-ins. Top professionals like Phil Ivey, Howard Ledderer, Gus Hanson, and Phil Helmuth have the luxury of sponsorships that pay for their buy-ins. And while these players are well known and successful − it’s next to impossible to achieve what they have in poker given today’s enormous playing fields.

When contemplating whether or not to play poker professionally, it should be considered from a rational and pragmatic point of view. Playing poker professionally sounds glamorous; you make your own hours and you get to be your own boss. But it comes at a price. You are exposed to angry, miserable people that are on "life tilt". Your sleeping, eating, and exercise patterns become erratic and it is sometimes difficult to maintain a life of normalcy that involves something other than cards. The intent is not to discourage one from pursuing a poker career, but rather arming one with adequate knowledge to make good decisions, rooted in reality. Knowledge is everything.


“ It’s not necessarily something that How does one know when they can quit their day job and play poker full time? The key is deciding if yo...

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